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October 27, 2017 6:37 pm

Happy 50th Birthday RDFFG!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Banner celebrates  milestone – image courtesy Regional District of Fraser Fort George

Prince George, B.C.-  On this day in 1967,  the Regional District of Fraser Fort George was incorporated.   A lot  has happened  during those five decades,  and the Regional District is celebrating as it prepares for  another half century.

The beginnings   go back to 1965, when B.C.  was  experiencing rapid expansion because of resource development.  Plenty  of rural areas were  growing, but lacked  having a local government,  so  the  Provincial Ministry of Municipal  Affairs had to handle things like land use planning and regulation.  There was also the issue of rural communities  not having access to services such as water and  fire  protection.

There  were two main issues which drove the  creation of  Regional Districts.  One was  the ability of a rural community to borrow  money. Rural communities were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to  securing long term loans for capital expenditures.  Then there was the matter of hospital  funding. Once again, a rural communities  were at a disadvantage because   they didn’t have  the tax base to  cover their area’s share of capital costs. Regional Hospitals at the time,  were  funded  off the backs of  the taxpayers  in the city where the  facility was  located,  and rural residents  living just outside   a city’s limits  were  spared any financial responsibility for the hospital’s operation.

To resolve the  issues,   the Province  introduced legislation  in 1965 to  create regional districts,  and  in 1967,  the Regional District of Fraser Fort George was incorporated.   That same year, the Hospital  Districts Act  was  enacted which  has  regional districts  covering 40% of the capital costs for hospital development.

The   first  Board of Directors for the RDFFG  was Chaired by  Paul Klotz of Mackenzie  a director from one of 8 electoral areas to make up the  Regional District. The very first Board meeting was held  on march 30th in the  offices of the Northern Interior Health Unit.  At the time,  the  operating  budget for  the Regional District was  just  under $109 thousand dollars,   there were only two people on staff ( a secretary/manager  G.S. ‘Stu’ Fleming)  and one planner.  The Regional District  was working out of rented  space  in the Victoria Medical Building. 

Today,  the Regional District has  75 FTEs,  a  budget of $42.8 million and makes its home  at the corner of George  Street and  First Avenue.

( at right,   the Board of 1968   meets,   Chairman George McAndrew  stands to address the gathering – image courtesy  RDFFG archive)

There have been some major events for the Regional District over the years says Art Kaehn,  who is now the longest serving Chair of the Board,  having  been first elected to that position in  December of 2006.

Here  is a list of the  Chairs of the Board since the RDFFG was incorporated:

  • Paul Klotz                       1967
  • George MacAndrew       1968-1970
  • Levi Johnson                  1971-1973
  • Leonard Proppe             1974-1977
  • Harold Mann                   1978-1979
  • Art Stauble                      1980-1981, 1983-1986
  • George McKnight            1982
  • Monica Becott                 1987-1988
  • Colin Kinsley                   1989-1992, 2001-2006
  • Bob Headrick                  1993-2000
  • Art Kaehn                        2007 – present

Highlights  over the years include  the  referendum to create the 9-1-1 service.  The referendum passed,  and Art Kaehn recalls the comments made by the late Tom  Briggs,  who was  the  Mayor of Mackenzie,  when the referendum had passed “He said they sold the service based on the  fact that taxation for it  was going to be cheaper than a case of beer.”

There can be  no  talk  about the colourful characters  of the Board of the Regional District without  discussing the late Bob Headrick.    As Director for Area D ( Tabor Lake- Stone Creek),  Headrick   served  30 years  on the Board.  He was Chair  for  8  years  during the ’90’s  which saw the Regional District face another one of its challenges in the  Provincially  ordered  waste management plan for  solid waste management,  a project that  had a price tag of  nearly $50 million dollars. “Looking back,  Director Harvey Clark and Director Headrick ran the quickest (Board) meetings”  says Kaehn.    “Director Headrick , sometime in the afternoon when we would start the meeting,  would say ‘O.K. pilgrims,   it’s time to get  down to the rat killing’  and we would storm right through the  agenda.”

Director Terry Burgess, who at the age of 80 is the oldest person to ever  serve on the Board,  also fondly  recalls the late Bob Headrick  “He was the one who pushed to give  the Regional District  say on farmland, we are the only  ones  with that  authority.  He was also  Chair  when  the Hospital Districts came to be,   and that was something he wasn’t too happy  about.”

There have been many accomplishments over the years says  Kaehn, “A new firehall in Beaverly,    a number of  sewer systems in Pineview and Summit Lake,  moved the transfer stations,  we’ve done a whole bunch  of work with the landfill gas management system at Foothills landfill,  of course the opening of the East Line Community Centre.”

He says former Chair  (and Mayor of Prince George) Colin Kinsley   was the one who made everyone at the RDFFG understand  they all benefited by each’s other successes  “He used to say what’s good for Prince George  is good for the Region, and vice versa.  I think the Board  really bought into that, whatever we do is going to make it better for everybody.”

Kaehn says he’s no fortune teller,  but knows there are still challenges that lie ahead,  including the  stability of rural  communities,  the changes  that  may  come about  should the Lheidli T’enneh  approve their  treaty,  economic  factors, and the impacts of climate change.

But for now,  it’s time to  celebrate  the milestone, and the  Regional District  will  be heading out on the road this year to hold board meetings in Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount in addition to having a presence at many community events that will be taking place throughout the region over the  course of this year.





“There were two main issues which drove the creation of Regional Districts. One was the ability of a rural community to borrow money.”

And the other was that when citizens of a rural community organised as a local improvement district too many of those citizens who were going to be taxed to repay that money wanted certainty that THAT was what their taxes were going towards. Not building an empire for highly paid bureaucrats.

What I get out of the article is there were two employees in 1967 that it now takes 75 people to do the same job. The land mass has not grown an acre and the number of councillors is the same. There are computers now where everything in the past had to be filed, wonder what the employee to resident is once you exclude municipalities. Would be interesting to compare the past with today.

Rule makers and tax collectors.

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